Without returning home from the Maryland Flatbread 200k I headed to the west to attend to some family business in Arkansas. The fixed gear bike (my choice of ride in MD) was mounted securely on the roof rack. I hoped to find some time to ride while away from home. I wasn't sure the fixie was the ideal bike for the terrain I would encounter in the region known as the Ozarks, but, it was what I had with me so it would have to do.
|Lake Norfork viewed from Mountain Home, Arkansas|
|The view of the River from Bull Shoals Dam|
Marshfield Mash 112k Permanent, Springfield, MO
Upon arrival I spent ten minutes assembling the bike. After which I relinquished the car to the dealer's service department. I rode next door to the "Kum and Go" Market to meet Ralph who arrived just after nine to complete paperwork for a 9:30am start. We spent the remaining time talking about all things Rando. Ralph is well in tune with the small but lively Randonneuring group in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. At the designated start time Ralph headed off to work and I took to the road. The temperature was in the forties with overcast skies.
|The quiet roads of southern Missouri|
|Riding the Missouri KK|
The hills on the KK felt a little harder on the return, but none were terribly daunting. Although, I was resigned to completing the ride under drab gray skies the sun finally burned its way through delivering brightness and warmth. Again I encountered the same dog up to his same old tricks. This time I employed a strategy I'd seen demonstrated by my friend Paul. I sprinted directly at the dog screaming aloud that I was going to run him over. The startled animal darted out of the way seemingly forgetting that he was supposed to be trying to bite me. I pedaled on to Rogersville, stopping at the Concocco Market and discovering that it was the proper control stop. I peeled off a layer and applied sun screen before departing for the last 14 miles.
|Nice of them to point out the best spots for nature breaks|
Turkey Trot 200k, Nashville, TN
Leaving the hotel at 6:15am, by bike, in the darkness felt fine as the temperature was pleasantly in the fifties. Although, there was a noticeable wind blowing. I took that as a sign that the forecast calling for 18 mph winds during the day was likely to be accurate. After navigating through three miles of traffic-free roads in the Nashville suburbs I arrived at the YMCA of Brentwood, which would serve as the ride start and finish. I was greeted by Jeff Sammons the region's RBA. I remembered Jeff from my prior Nashville ride. A few riders were gathered around. Jeff Bauer, who I had met before, arrived a few minutes after. Jeff is known nationally as an accomplished fixed gear rider. My stomach tightened a bit when I saw him pull from his vehicle a fully geared bike. I was told the route had some steep hills on it, but Jeff had ridden the Rocky Mountain 1200k, RAAM and PBP on fixed. It made me nervous to learn I would be the only one without gears. Our group swelled to eleven riders by the start time. Seven would be on the 200k with the other four riding the 100k optional route which started at the same time.
As the clock hit 7am Jeff signaled for us to go. We took to the roads with Jeff Bauer quickly establishing a lead and steadily opening a gap on the group. His mission was to assist the RBA by manning the finish for the 200k riders. Ideally, to accomplish this he needed to be the first one in. Although, he did leave the passenger window on his vehicle cracked open as a back up. Anyone who finished before him could complete the brevet card and slide it into the vehicle. I've seen this system used effectively on other brevets. However, early indications were that Jeff would be there first. I assumed that was his reason for choosing the geared bike. After about 10 miles we came to the first substantial climb. It was fairly steep for about a mile. Jeff was out of sight by this point. Two other riders, one named Jeremy, climbed quickly and were over the top ahead of the group. I hung in there with the main cluster of riders only to be dropped on the descent, which was quite long. The terrain remained moderate for awhile, I enjoyed the scenery and traffic-free roads. The first control was an information point at 28 miles into the route. The few miles preceding were quite hilly. I clearly recall one steep knee breaker, named Anderson Road, that had me traversing side to side. I came close to walking on that one. My only salvation was that I vowed to fall over before clipping out. That conviction kept me grinding to the top. The info control came shortly after. I answered the question which was found on a billboard positioned for the highway that passed overhead. There was no access to the interstate from the lower road so traffic was non-existent.
It was 12 more miles to the first commercial control. There were some hills, but nothing as bad as Anderson Road. Some of the miles were on numbered roads, which feature more traffic, but, typically have more modest hills. I arrived at the small grocery store control in Harpeth Valley. I was surprised to discover there were no riders there. All had made it through before me. I was resigning myself to finishing last and seeing no one for the rest of the day. I was 41 miles into the route.
|Riding by a pleasant river on a Tennessee state highway|
Both the wind and the terrain softened somewhat. There were still some hills, but nothing particularly steep or long. I made about 12 miles before Jeremy and his riding buddy passed by me. They were moving quite well over the gentle terrain. I didn't think I would see them again. None the less I was happy with my progress. I was riding efficiently. Outside of the brief control stops I just kept moving steadily. There was an outside chance that I would make the finish by dark, but I wasn't counting on it. When I arrived at the control the two riders were just heading out giving me the thumbs up sign. I intended to make the stop brief. A quick bathroom break, a purchase of Gatorade, then out the door. Jeff rode in as I was dumping the Gatorade into my bike bottle. He said he was feeling better as he entered the store. I headed back out for the final section. Twenty miles to go.
I continued on, fully visible from all directions. I encountered a minor navigation problem with a missing street sign, which caused me to ride up and down the road looking for the proper turn. When I finally figured it out I lost another 10 minutes. It was difficult for me to read the cue sheet as the print was quite small. Even with my helmet light it was difficult. This caused me to ride even slower. While I was stopped at a traffic light one of the riders from behind pulled alongside. We rode to the finish which was only a couple of miles further, all ridden on a bike path. We popped out of the woods into the parking lot where Jeff was waiting for us. We were clocked in a 10hrs 18minutes. After chatting a bit I departed by bike for my motel. There was a Whole Foods Market nearby I desperately wanted to visit again.
For all the regional differences Randonneur riding seems pretty similar wherever I've traveled . RBA's and riders are friendly and supportive. The routes are similar in design mostly utilizing lightly traveled rural roads. Although, terrain can vary somewhat, an attempt is generally made to add sufficient challenge to the course. While at times I cursed my choice of bike, mostly I was very happy to have accomplished all the rides on the fixed. Two weeks of nothing but one gear and constant pedaling gave me a bit more confidence in my riding overall.
I left Nashville early the next morning to undertake an 880 mile one day car trip home. Which equated in my mind to something along the lines of the motorized version of a 400k. I arrived home at 10pm exhausted from the days drive. Fortunately, I recovered well enough to take on a 112k Permanent Populaire the next morning. On gears.